Illness in Old Age Is Part of an Individual's Fate and Must Be Approached with Acceptance

By Maria-Irini Avgoulas and Rebecca Fanany.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

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Older members of the Greek community see aging and the ill health that may accompany it as an inevitable part of life. They associate illness very closely with God’s will, and largely believe their state of health is an aspect of fate and / or luck that they do not have control over and must simply accept. This paper, based on research conducted in Melbourne, Australia, describes the way in which the experience of old age is understood in the worldview of this group. The words fate and luck (τύχη = tyche; γραφτό = graphto) are often used by older Greeks to characterize their situation. Luck, to this group, is not random. The term (τύχη) was used in classical times to refer to a kind of minor deity that controlled the fortune of the Greek city states, and an element of this idea of intention remains today. In the modern context, luck comes from God, and for this group, is part of γραφτό, or destiny, something that is written. In its usual usage in Greek, γραφτό refers to something that must happen to a person because it is predetermined and cannot not occur. The meaning that these older Greek individuals give to the word luck in the modern world is manifested in their acceptance of the problems of aging and their approach to coping with their own experience.

Keywords: Illness, Old Age, Fate, Luck, God, Acceptance, Elderly Greek, Australia

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 10, Issue 3, 2012, pp.71-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 284.660KB).

Dr. Maria-Irini Avgoulas

Associate Lecturer, School of Public Health and Human Biosciences, Faculty of Health Science, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ms. Maria-Irini Avgoulas is currently employed at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia and holds the role of associate lecturer and placement coordinator, in rehabilitation counselling in the School of Public Health and Human Biosciences. Her previous clinical experience includes several years of working in health (acute hospital settings and in-patient psychiatry). She was also employed for a number of years with Centrelink, an Australian government statutory agency. In 2011 she undertook a study examining the cultural understanding of health and adjustment to CVD among the Greek elderly of Melbourne, Australia. This study is part of a PhD research project that she commenced in 2012 at Deakin University examining the transmission of culturally determined health beliefs among three generations of greek families in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Rebecca Fanany

Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Rebecca Fanany is a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne. Her research interests relate to language culture and health, including how health is conceptualized and how language and cultural background influence the experience of illness. Her recent publications include several articles and papers on these topics as well as a book entitled Health as a Social Experience, to be published in late 2012.